Despite higher prices, demand for organic kiwifruit remains strong.
Steve Woodyear-Smith, tropicals category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said Oppy’s organic sales are about 50% ahead of this time last year.
“Volumes are down and New Zealand had to put their prices up, but we’ve had very strong demand throughout the U.S. and eating quality is exceptional,” Woodyear-Smith said.
Oppenheimer has a new 1-pound organic bag and has offered wooden shippers to select stores to augment their loose displays.
“I think the retailers are seeing the opportunity, expanding their range and creating more room in stores for an organic section,” he said. “It’s been exciting growth for us.”
The biggest challenge, he said, is that supplies aren’t keeping up with increased global demand for organic kiwifruit.
Robert Schueller, director of public relations for World Variety Produce, Los Angeles, which markets under the Melissa’s label, said organic kiwifruit have been a strong seller year-round for more than a decade, and rank in the top 20 of organic fruit sold across the country.
With fair supplies coming from Chile and New Zealand, Melissa’s main supplier, Schueller said there may be a slight gap of a week or two in late October until the California crop ramps up.
The company sells organic kiwifruit in 1-pound bags.
Mike Noland, president of Wild River Marketing Inc., Marysville, Calif., expects to begin harvesting and packing his 100 acres of organic California kiwifruit in early October.
With less fruit on the vine, possibly because of severe winds in April, Noland said production could be down 15% compared to last year, coming in at more than 200,000 tray equivalents.
The good news, he said, is that dry matter is high and he expects excellent flavor. With the fruit well distributed, he also expects a wide range of sizes for his 20-pound box, 1-pound bags and 125-pound wooden mini bins.
“Last year’s market was very brisk, and we’re optimistic we will continue to see that growth,” he said.